Oops, Jaitley’s false arithmetic on GST

New Delhi : As the country’s finance minister, Arun Jaitely is not supposed to err in arithmetic but he faltered widely in being optimistic to pass the GST Bill in the budget session “since halfway through next session, numbers in Rajya Sabha will turn favourable.” The ruling BJP and combine will not gain a clear majority in the House neither in 2016 nor in 2017 and the numbers won’t change any drastically during the budget session when five nominated members retire in March and another 12 in April.

Half of the 12 retiring in April are from Congress, including former union ministers A K Antony, Ashwani Kumar and Dr M S Gill while others retiring are 2 each from BJP, Akali Dal and CPI(M). The position of Congress and BJP will not change since Antony and Ashwani will pull through while loss of Dr Gill from Punjab will be compensated in the Congress-ruled Himachal where BJP”s Bimla Kashyap Sood has no chance to win the contest for a single seat. Nor will Congress lose two seats in Assam and one in Kerala as it is in power in both the states.

The Congress has 67 MPs in the 245-member House as against the BJP”s 48 while the Congress tally will still be 60 at the end of 2016 even after elections for another 21 seats in June and 35 in July. Altogether 75 seats are falling vacant this year and the BJP can expect to raise its tally at the most to 54 at the most. Even in 2017, only 10 seats are falling vacant, including six from West Bengal, and that will not change the equations much. The BJP will win the Goa seat in 2017 that is now with Shantaram Naik of Congress. The Congress worry is that its most vocal deputy leader Anand Sharma is to retire in July and the party will have to look for some other state to get him elected as he has no chance to get re-elected from the BJP-ruled Rajasthan. Other party stalwarts retiring this year include general secretary Ambika Soni, Oscar Fernandes, Jairam Ramesh and Mohsina Kidwai in June and Satish Sharma, Avinash Pande, Hanumantha Rao and Vijay Darda.

The BJP too will have to search for some other states to accommodate some of its leaders like Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Even after the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in April next year, there will be no scope for the BJP to gain even if it wins the elections since 11 seats are to be filled up this July and another 10 filled up before the Assembly elections, leaving only 10 seats to be filled in November 2020. Since all five nominated members, Mani Shankar Aiyer, Javed Akhtar, Bhalchand Mungekar, Mrinal Miri and B Jayashree retiring in March were the Congress supporters, the BJP will gain by nominating own persons to increase its tally slightly. The Congress has no chance to retain its numbers as it has lost many state assemblies and yet it plans to bring to the Upper House at least two stalwarts – P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal – from the Congress-ruled Karnataka and Bihar respectively to give problems to Jaitley in the House on a daily basis. Four seats are falling vacant in Karnataka that will be able to accommodate Chidambaram, Oscar and two others from the Congress. Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu elected from the state will have to move elsewhere.

Bihar will have five vacancies but both the dominant forces — JD-U and RJD — have their hands tied and yet Sibal is hopeful of get in my securing their surplus votes. While the BJP can get only one seat from Bihar, JD-U has to get re-elected its president Sharad Yadav and general secretary K C Tyagi while RJD supremo Lalu Prasad wants both his wife Rabri Devi and daughter Misa Bharti while he is also under pressure from former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh. The Congress has 27 MLAs and so it needs surplus votes of JD-U and RJD for Sibal. In Uttar Pradesh, 11 seats are falling vacant this year and the Congress is hoping to get one with the BSP support but it is too extremely uncertain. In Maharashtra, four seats are falling vacant and the Congress has the strength to retain only one. Veterans like Sushil Kumar Shinde, Gurdas Kamat, Mukul Wasnik and Vilas Muttemwar are already in line. The Congress will be able to reclaim two out of the seven retiring from Punjab but any outsiders are unlikely to find favour from the election-bound state.

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